How Can You Reduce Your Risk?
There is a lot you can do to lower your risk for many types of cancers.
Eat Healthy Foods
You can lower your risk of some cancers by eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and by cutting back on saturated fat (solid fats found in meats and dairy products). Vitamin and mineral supplements with A, C, D, and E may also help lower your risk.
How you prepare your food is equally important as research has shown a connection between certain types of cancer and overcooked meat.
Guidelines to consider adopting to reduce your risk of cancer are:
- Eat more grains and vegetables, limit red meat and avoid processed meat
- Do not use any form of tobacco
- Limit your intake of alcohol
- Get plenty of exercise. Fast walking, jogging, bicycling, aerobic dance, or other activities that get your heart rate up will help. Aim for at least 20 or 30 minutes per day. Check with you doctor before starting an exercise program.
Get Screened for Colorectal Cancer
Screening tests find health problems early, before symptoms appear. Regular testing to find colon cancer early is very important because as soon as there are symptoms, it's usually too late to cure colon cancer.
Regular testing greatly lowers your risk of dying from colon cancer.
Routine testing is recommended for everyone age 50 and older who has a normal risk for colon cancer. People with a higher risk, such as African Americans and people with a strong family a history of colon cancer or possible cancer syndrome, should be tested sooner.
A colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy can help prevent colon cancer by finding polyps and removing them before they turn into cancer. And if you have a colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy, any polyps that are found can be removed during the test.
There are other screening tests you should consider like yearly mammograms and cervical PAP smears for women. You should discuss what tests you should have with your doctor.
Watch Your Weight
Being overweight can increase the risk of cancer, particularly in post menopausal women. Ask your doctor what your ideal weight should be for your age and height. If you weigh more than you should, you should consider losing the extra pounds. Exercise and smart eating will help. Lose weight slowly because “crash” diets almost always fail. Maintain a consistent healthy weight throughout life.
Too much stress may be a contributing factor in increasing the risk for all types of cancer. While you can’t always avoid situations that make you tense, you can ease the strain by practicing stress-reduction techniques, including meditation, deep breathing, mild exercise and yoga.
Smoking increases your risk of getting cancer and causes heart and lung diseases. If you smoke, you should try to quit. You can sign up for a free smoking cessation class by calling Markstein Services at (510) 869-8833. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. And stay away from people who do smoke to avoid exposure to second-hand smoke.
Limit Alcohol Intake
Doctors advise people who drink to do so in moderation. According to the American Cancer Society, drinking in moderation currently means no more than one drink per day for women and no more than two drinks per day for men. If you have colorectal cancer, heavy consumption of alcohol may increase your risk of recurrence (National Cancer Institute).
If alcohol use is a problem for you or a loved one, Alta Bates Summit offers two substance abuse programs:
- MPI Chemical Dependency Treatment Program offers services for adults
- Thunder Road Adolescent Treatment Center helps adolescents stop the cycle of abuse
Practice Sun Safety
Stay out of the sun between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. when rays can be most harmful. When outside, wear a hat, long sleeves, pants and sunglasses and try to stay in the shade. Use sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of 15 to 30 and reapply throughout the day. Avoid tanning booths and sunlamps. Check your skin regularly for anything new or for changes.
Cancer researchers are examining Vitamin D's role in cancer risk reduction. Until more studies are done, the American Cancer Society recommends following the sun protection guidelines while getting Vitamin D from foods and supplements. Please talk to your physician about maintaining adequate Vitamin D levels while minimizing exposure to the sun.
For more information on reducing risks for colorectal cancer, please call Markstein Cancer Education and Prevention Services at (510) 869-8833.